Location: 909 James Gichuru Rd
It is dubbed the home of fine African Cuisine. The first time I noticed Le Palanka was on a drive through James Gichuru Rd. It stood out due to the graffiti on the gate, especially since I recognized the late Chinua Achebe’s face. The exterior is well done and the grounds are lovely. The interiors created a sense of warmth which was especially aided by the burgundy walls. Their music selection which featured African artistes coupled with the traditional African masks on the wall gave it an African feel. The main dining area didn’t have too many tables but not to worry there are other dining areas in the inner rooms. A feature that is worth noting is the glass wall in the middle of the room which gives a sneak peek into the kitchen.
My date and I were running late but the waitress promptly took notice of our arrival and did not take long to bring the menu which was a good thing. Of late I have been keeping off so called fresh fruit juices as they always seem to precede a cold. I opted for herbal tea which they didn’t seem to have but the waitress proffered a hot ginger lemon drink and I was happy to accept. Their version of the lemon ginger drink was a bit mild in terms of the heat from the ginger. I told Pauline the waitress and she asked if I would like for it to be made stronger which is commendable I reckon. The drinks menu is predominantly alcoholic but there are fruit juices for the teetotalers.
The menu consisted of predominantly West African food but I spotted a dish from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Unfortunately I did not take much note of the starters, the soups and the tapas because as I had mentioned earlier we were late and in the spirit of being mindful of the time we skipped right to the main course. Everyone ordered a different meal which was great because we got to try 4 different dishes from the menu. We ordered Jollof Rice from Nigeria, Okra Beef from Ghana, Rabbit Aubergine from Ivory Coast and Mafe from Mali . Anyone who has read Chinua Achebe and Chimamanda Adichie would not be a complete stranger to Jollof Rice. Jollof Rice is kind of like Pilau. It consists of rice fried in a significant amount of oil and it is cooked with vegetables like carrots, capsicum among other others and served with fried beef. The Jollof Rice was very flavourful and we all gave it a thumbs up. The Okra Beef is as the name suggests but contrary to my fear that it would be a “hot mess” (pun intended) given Okra’s characteristic sliminess, I was pleasantly surprised. The beef was fried with tomatoes and okra which lend to the seedy appearance. The Beef Okra was accompanied with Plantains. The Plantains were cubes of banana (sweet) which were deep fried. All I can say is, the next time I visit Palanka, I know the starch I will be ordering.
I personally ordered the rabbit aubergine with rice because I had never tasted rabbit meat until that day. The rabbit was served on the bone which was scary (I had to inspect the steak knife to get an idea of how things would play out) but Pauline assured us that the meat was soft and it wouldn’t cling to the bone and I must say she did not lie. The rabbit which tasted a lot like chicken was in a delicious thick stew. The interesting thing about it was there was a sharp taste which I couldn’t place but I guess the aubergine had something to do with it. The last but certainly not the least dish was the Mafe which was either chicken or fish cooked in peanut sauce. Our companion chose fish and it was a good choice. It was creamy and flavourful but none of the flavours overpowered each other. The brown colour from the peanut sauce was a feast for the eyes as well. The portions were good and the food was so great that even at the last minute we were still picking from each others dishes.
One of the questions which we forgot to ask was about the veggies. When we were done eating we realized that none of the dishes came with veggies on the side which we found quite odd. We however, forgot to inquire about this but that’s food for thought (no pun intended) for anyone who visits Palanka before we do so again. My companions and I enjoyed our time at Palanka. The food, the ambiance and the service was fantastic but then again it was a new establishment at the time so that is expected. The big question is: will they do the unexpected and maintain their standards? Good people test and see and let us know….